forearms training

weighted pull ups: Everything you need to know


Use weighted pull ups to increase your strength and muscle mass! This variation of the classic pull-up, where you add extra weight to your body, is ideal for making the pull-up more intense and challenging.

It is recommended for beginners in calisthenics to build a solid foundation with weighted pull-ups before diving into practicing skills. A strong pull-up has significant carryover to other calisthenics exercises.

In this blog, I’ll explain why the weighted pull-up is so effective and how to perform this exercise correctly to achieve maximum results.


What is a weighted pull up?

The weighted pull-up is a compound calisthenics exercise in which you add extra weight to the pull-up to increase intensity. By incorporating additional resistance, whether through a weight vest or a dipping belt, you intensify the challenge and maximize your gains. This versatile exercise can be executed on rings or the traditional pull-up bar, offering flexibility in your workout routine.

For those who aren’t quite ready to introduce extra weight to their pull-ups, delve into our comprehensive bodyweight pull-ups blog for essential tips and techniques. It’s the perfect starting point to build the foundation for your calisthenics journey.

When / why to start training weighted pull ups

Deciding when to start adding weight to your pull-ups depends on your individual fitness level and goals. Here are a few guidelines to help you determine the right time:

  1. Master the basics: Before adding weight, ensure you have a solid foundation in bodyweight pull-ups. Focus on proper form and build enough strength to perform a reasonable number of reps comfortably. 

  2. Plateaued progress: If you find that your bodyweight pull-ups have plateaued, meaning you’re not experiencing significant strength gains or increased reps, introducing weighted pull ups can stimulate new muscle growth and strength development.

  3. Training goals: If your goal is to increase overall strength and muscle mass, incorporating weighted pull-ups can be an effective strategy. Also if your goal is to do heavy pulling exercises like the front lever or the one arm pull up, then a strong weighted pull up will help you out a lot. 

Pull up technique

Before you start adding weight to your pull-ups, you need to have a solid bodyweight pull up. Down below you’ll find the most important technique cues to focus on.

Dead hang

You initiate the pull-up from a dead hang, meaning you hang from the bar with an elevated shoulder position. To execute a clean repetition, you must return to this position after each pull-up.

Scapula depression

Before you even start pulling with your arms, begin by retracting your shoulder blades downward. This ensures stability in your shoulder blades throughout the pull-up, helping to prevent shoulder injuries.

Body tension

To ascend as efficiently as possible during the pull-up, it’s crucial to engage your entire body. By tightening your legs, glutes, and core, you prevent any horizontal movement alongside the vertical pull. Allowing such movement would expend extra energy, something you definitely want to avoid.

Forearms stay vertical

Perhaps the most common mistake during pull-ups is the horizontal movement of the forearms.

Many athletes close their pull-up by pushing their chin forward while pulling their elbows backward in the top position. Although this technique lifts your chin above the bar, it’s not an ideal posture.

Pulling your elbows backward in this manner increases pressure on your elbows, logically raising the risk of injuries, especially when intensifying the workout with added weight.

How to progress with Weighted pull ups

Choose a range of sets and reps that align with your goals.

If your focus is on strength, opt for 3 to 4 working sets of 3–6 reps. If you aim to build muscle mass, go for 3 to 4 sets of 6–15 reps.

In all the aforementioned training methods, it’s crucial to gradually increase the weight. However, do so in small increments, allowing your body to adapt to the heightened intensity.

Start off with 1.25kg or 2.5kg additional weight. Whenever you reach a full 3 sets (for example 3 x 6 reps when you train for strength) add additional weight. 

As a base rule add weight when you max out your sets:
– Females: add 1.25kg
– Males: add 2.5kg

Weight vest or dipping belt?

There are countless ways to add weight to your pull-ups. If you’re just starting, you can fill a bag with water bottles or use a heavy chain. However, when you’re serious about training weighted pull-ups, it’s beneficial to invest in a weight vest or a dipping belt.

The choice between these two depends on your training preferences.

Weighted pull ups with belt

When you’re training to become as strong or muscular as possible, a dipping belt, also known as a pull-up belt, is your best option. With this belt worn around your waist, adding weight becomes a breeze. The belt consists of a wide strap around your waist, three carabiners, and a chain or rope to attach the weight.

When training weighted pull-ups with a pull-up belt, you enjoy several advantages over a weight vest.

You can attach significantly more weight, as pull-up belts can handle loads of up to 1000kg, whereas weight vests usually max out around 30kg.

Moreover, you can hang the weight beneath you, a significant advantage for shoulder mobility during pull-ups. A weight vest may impede movement, whereas a belt won’t pose such issues.

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Weighted pull ups with a weight vest

If your workouts are focused on muscle conditioning, for example, by combining high reps and sets of pull-ups, dips, and push-ups, then a weighted vest is the best choice for you.

With such a vest, you can easily add 1 to 20kg to your workout. Typically, these weight vests are filled with pouches of 1kg each, allowing you to adjust the weight easily.

Additionally, a weight vest is more cost-effective since the weights are included in the purchase price. With a weight belt, you would need to buy the weights separately

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Street lifting, the sport where weighted calisthenics exercises are performed, is on a global rise. All around the world  competitions are being organized.

This calisthenics variation of powerlifting follows a competition format in the 1rm (one-rep max) for weighted dips, weighted pull-ups, weighted squats, and the weighted muscle-up. So, if you believe you have a powerful weighted pull-up, don’t hesitate to participate in such a competition.

Training at home material

What calisthenics equipment do you need to train weighted pull-ups? Naturally, a dipping belt, vest, or a weight vest and a pull-up bar. For a pull up bar you have 3 options:

– Doorway pull up bar
– Wall mounted pull up bar
– Dip / Pull up station

Additionally, it can be beneficial to use wrist wraps to support your wrists. To enhance your grip, you can also use liquid chalk.

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